“Don’t wait around for Shannon to say she’s sorry. It ain’t gonna happen.” My dad grinned and winked mischievously, knowing he would get a rise out of me by picking on the very thing we all knew was true. I was thirteen and in yet another cold, silent fight with my best friend. We sat icily in the car together, each staring out our own window and pretending the other didn’t exist.
As usual, neither of us ever apologized for the daggers we were shooting into each other’s backs that day. Not in that fight, and not in any of the others we had through the years of that friendship. We would just wait it out, continuing to run in the same circles because that was unavoidable, and then slowly inch back into shallow interactions until it felt normal again between us. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? The problem was, there was never a basis of trust in our friendship. We were friends by convenience and by superficial interests, but there was no real depth there to assure us that we would be there for each other no matter what. It was easy to place blame on her for not owning up to her mistakes, but I always knew deep down that I was partly at fault too.
Sadly (but unsurprisingly), this friendship eventually dissolved. Later, as a young adult, I found myself in a new circle of friends and started noticing that they did things differently. When they would come to me and apologize for a wrongdoing, it immediately diffused the situation and I would suddenly realize that the thing itself wasn’t insurmountable; all I had really needed was their apology. I began to see the error of my ways. I started picking up on what they were modeling, and started practicing it myself. Although it was (and still is) sometimes awkward and uncomfortable, I found that my relationships were much happier, healthier and carried far less drama.
Of course there have been times when I have reached out to someone with a sincere apology and it wasn’t enough to satisfy them. Or they accepted my apology without admitting to any wrong on their part. In practicing intentional apologizing, I have come to understand that I am not responsible for anyone else or their response to me. I am only responsible for myself, and for doing everything in my power to nurture healthy relationships with those around me. I want to live with a clear conscience, knowing I’m doing everything in my power to live at peace with the people in my life. I certainly fail at times when my pride gets the best of me, but I can still see how far I’ve come.
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